I know that Switzerland somehow maintains the balance of a strong hunting culture and society that really values guns and the UK MIGHT be an exception to this…but where was the fork in the road where, for instance, Spain, Italy, Germany, or France didn’t become big “gun” countries?
Was it literally the Second Amendment? I find it hard to believe the backbone of American gun culture would be as rock-solid without the Second Amendment.
Also, don’t start splitting hairs too fine here. You know exactly what I mean by “gun” countries and how those European countries don’t have a “culture” around them that America does.
I would posit that the seeds were sown well before guns became commonplace household items.
Starting from the very earliest colonists, the people who came to America were significantly adventurous, more self-reliant, more distrustful of government (for many and varied reasons–religious persecution being a common one), etc. than the people who stayed at home were likely to be.
Once they arrived, a significant number of them faced serious threats from the local Indians, thus leading to a certain degree of self-defense mindset. Compare this to Europe, where common criminals and simple disease were really the only threats to life. Many of the colonists couldn’t rely on government to protect them, either because functional government didn’t exist, or else it was too far away to be of any help.
As American civilization developed, those differences tended to linger, and perhaps even become magnified.
I agree with this, but would add that it remains today. In many rural areas, the game that you shoot in the fall is the meat that is in the freezer that you eat all winter. This wasn’t 1587 or 1776. It is 2019.
In those areas, young boys starting at age 12 or 13 are part of the hunt as well and guns are viewed as tools and not as instruments of crime.
The most useful point of comparison, I would think, would be Australia, which had a similar adventurous spirit among their early settlers, and a similarly sparsely-populated interior. And yet, gun control is quite strict in Australia today.
How about Canada, which almost exactly paralleled the US in exploration and settlement challenges? A gun culture never developed in Canada, either. Today the preponderance of opinion is towards making gun laws even stronger than they already are.
I wonder if anyone has seriously studied this particular situation?
The “Indians” answer does not really cover it. Australians and Canadians had similar frontiers, (although both the indigenous and invading populations were quite a bit smaller). I would have though that under the “Indians” proposal, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, (and maybe a couple others), would have had a similar situation. And if we leave out fiction, the actual danger from indigenous attacks was not great. As each new Indian nation was pushed aside, there would be a (usually) brief war and then the settlers moved in with no further opposition. There was no time when generations of settlers needed self-defense in any limited region.
People might point to the Wild West, but local ordinances against guns were rather more restrictive in the Wild West than they are in 21st century U.S. and there were few, (if any), challenges to those ordinances that were based on the Second Amendment.
Perhaps organized crime? Perhaps the popularity of fiction beginning with pulp novels, (penny dreadfuls, etc.), and continuing through exciting Westerns and Crime flicks. I wonder if the debates on gun control were greater of lesser prior to Mickey Spillane’s series of Mike Hammer novels in which Hammer claims the right to carry and use his 1911 .45 in nearly every book?)
Modern gun culture has its roots in the crime explosion of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Murder rates doubled and the government seemed unable or unwilling to stop it. People were understandably scared and wanted to protect themselves.
I remember when a man broke into our house and attacked my mother with a knife, it sure was nice to have my dad and his gun to scare him away.
France also had a revolutionary war. Pikes and guns were distributed to ordinary people, militias were formed, armed citizenry was idealized as a rampart against tyranny and counter-revolutionaries, all that jazz.
Yes, many towns did have rules that said you had to check your guns in at the saloon or sheriffs office when in town. That’s not the same as restrictive laws banning ownership or purchase, most towns openly sold guns to all and sundry with ready cash (except maybe Indians of course). Out in camp, on the trail or range, everyone carried.
However, it was quite customary in cowtowns for the cowboys to run around drunk, shooting their guns in the air, and according to period writers like Mark Twain, a “Navy revolver” was part of daily wear out there. Period photos bear this out. Men celebrated good news by firing their guns in the air. Hard to do that if they didnt have guns.
Actually the reason we do is pretty bad, certainly worse than England or Australia’s. WW1 saw plenty of people coming back from the trenches with little souvenirs. Plenty of those people happened to be poor, blue collar guys. So when they started to unionize, agitate and threaten to Do Something about their work conditions, people who happened to have a lot of money got sort of antsy. Thankfully, in a move that foreshadowed our as-then future close European relationship, our German neighbours saw fit to visit us and raise a puppet government of domestic assholes ; who promptly enacted strict gun control laws to disarm any would-be commie and Resistance member. By 1941 the Milice were shooting people for the crime of owning weapons.
Sadly, this friendly and spirited partership would end circa 45, and De Gaulle’s government kept the gun control laws on the books because, well, scary commies, you know how it is. Also his regime was pretty close to tyranny, so there was that. But later protestors, agitators and assorted peacenik hippie pinkos didn’t really dig the whole shootin’ folk vibe so the issue was never really revisited - hunters got to keep their shotguns and drunkenly shoot each other on opening day, city folks didn’t need to be scared of crimies with guns (and those who did could run through a number of hoops to be allowed a gun), and policemen with guns were also happy that their opposition more often than not packed nothing scarier than a switchblade. Even today with all the oogabooga Mooslim terrist scaremongering that’s been going on and on and on, nobody’s really running to fight the “I need guns to shoot me some Arabs with !” battle. Not even the fascist party. Which is weird, when I think about it.
“Those” laws and governments? :dubious: You don’t seem to understand the history of Canadian independence. Both the US and Canada, such as they were at the time, started out as British colonies. Canada suffered neither more nor less “tyranny” than the US; it merely chose to become self-governing through peaceful means, with the British North America Act of 1867. Remaining ties to Britain were gradually dismantled in further stages, notably the Statute of Westminster in 1931 recognizing it as an equal member of the Commonwealth, and culminating in the patriation of the Constitution in 1982.
Throughout that process, Canada passed gun laws as it saw fit, beginning to differ significantly from those in the US mainly in the 20th century. Fear of British Redcoats may account for the Second Amendment, but it tells us absolutely nothing about the pervasive gun culture that has persisted into the 21st century. There is no longer a serious possibility that British Redcoats will return on sailing ships to reclaim the colonies, so you need to look harder for an explanation for the gun culture. The idea that it protects against “tyranny” of your own government is laughable and leads only to the empowerment of “sovereign citizen” types and other random lunatics perpetrating random acts of public violence.
Britain famously did not arm their police until relatively recently. But if you read any Golden Age mystery, or even go back as far as Sherlock Holmes, you’ll see that every male in every household had no problem putting his hand on a pistol in case the murderer appeared. Comparing those to American mysteries, you get the sense that far more Brits had guns than Americans.
In the 1950s, gangs began to enter headlines, reaching their height of popular awareness with the idiocies of West Side Story. The gangs there fought with knives, however. In real life, they had a few zip guns and Saturday Night Specials. Serious weaponry didn’t reach gangs until later.
When did gun culture begin? Probably not until after Vietnam. Back in 2016, Time ran a story titled When the NRA Supported Gun Control, quoting Adam Winkler author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.
Gun culture is modern, and specifically affected by fear of the Other. The enemies are the Government which, if run by Democrats, is going to take your guns away, and people of color and immigrants and the other right-wing targets of bigotry. Don’t get distracted by talk of the Second Amendment. Nobody paid that any attention until the NRA used it as a patriotic flag. The percentage of gun ownership has not changed at all since 1972; it’s just that each gun owner now owns many more guns. The number of pistols and revolvers has tripled just since 2007, according to ATF statistics.
There is no “gun culture” in the U.S. There is a gun culture among certain right-wing types, and way too many illegal but easily available guns in the hands of gangs and criminals and the disturbed. One enables the other, and the other stokes more fear in the one. The rest of America just wants to stay out of it.
I’d love to know why my neighbor has dozens of guns. I’m cool with people having guns, but geez. Is any other country like this? He hunts, but that takes what, like 1 or 2 guns? I try to avoid certain topics with him.
We asked him one day about what happened when his teen-age son and 5 friends got some hassle from the police when they were in the woods up the hill and decided to fire off a few hundred rounds from a few dozen guns in about 5 minutes. He just said proudly- “Boys will be boys!”. And the boys did not get in any trouble, totally legal here.
Another friend had trouble with his estranged daughters boyfriend threatening them, now they have 6 different guns, for self defense. He does not hunt. You can only shoot one at a time…
I could go out tomorrow and buy a shit ton of guns, no one would look at me with any suspicion. But I just never had the desire to do that. And I was in the Army reserves for infantry, so I’ve been around a lot of guns. I just have no need to have one laying around.